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  • Author or Editor: Elizabeth Ogden x
  • Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science x
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Deacclimation response is an important part of reproductive success in woody perennials because late winter or early spring thaws followed by hard freezes can cause severe injury to dehardened flower buds. There is a need to develop more spring-frost tolerant cultivars for the blueberry (Vaccinium L.) industry. The identification of later or slower deacclimating genotypes could be useful in breeding for more spring-frost tolerant cultivars. This study was undertaken to investigate cold hardiness and deacclimation kinetics under field conditions for 12 Vaccinium (section Cyanococcus A. Gray) genotypes (the cultivars Bluecrop, Duke, Legacy, Little Giant, Magnolia, Northcountry, Northsky, Ozarkblue, Pearl River, Tifblue, and Weymouth; and a population of V. constablaei Gray) with different germplasm compositions and expected mid-winter bud hardiness levels. Examination of bud cold hardiness (BCH) vs. weeks of deacclimation over a 7-week period in 2 consecutive years (2002 and 2003) revealed clear genotypic differences in cold hardiness and timing and rate of deacclimation. Among cultivars, `Legacy' was the least cold hardy at initial evaluation, even less so than `Tifblue'. Regarding deacclimation kinetics, the weekly intervals with the largest losses (i.e., high rates of deacclimation) also varied among genotypes. For `Duke', the largest losses in BCH were detected at weeks 2 and 3, making it the earliest deacclimator. For `Bluecrop', `Ozarkblue', `Weymouth', `Tifblue', and `Legacy', the greatest losses in BCH were observed at weeks 3 and 4. For `Little Giant', `Magnolia', `Northcountry', `Northsky', and `Pearl River', losses in BCH were greatest at weeks 4 and 5, while for V. constablaei, losses were greatest at weeks 6 and 7, making it the latest deacclimator. Deacclimation kinetics were not correlated with mid-winter hardiness or chilling requirements in any fixed pattern. On the other hand, a strong positive correlation was found between BCH and stage of bud opening (r = 0.84). A comparison of timing of deacclimation with germplasm composition indicated that V. constablaei was particularly late to deacclimate. `Little Giant', a 50:50 hybrid of V. constablaei and V. ashei Reade, was nearly as late to deacclimate as the 100% V. constablaei selections. Thus, V. constablaei may be useful in breeding programs to contribute genes for late deacclimation, which should translate into greater spring frost tolerance, in addition to genes for mid-winter hardiness.

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Cold injury to plants can occur by early fall freezes before cold acclimation, by severe midwinter freezes that exceed the limits of the plant's tolerance, or by hard freezes in late winter or early spring after partial or complete deacclimation. Ideally, blueberry (Vaccinium L.) cultivars for temperate regions should acclimate to cold quickly in the fall, have a high midwinter-hardiness, and deacclimate late and/or slowly during spring or during unseasonably warm spells in winter, and do all of this without adversely delaying time of fruiting. Until recently, only limited evaluations have been done on the acclimation and deacclimation process in blueberry, although it is an integral part of flower bud survival and, thus, is directly related to potential yield. In this study, we have measured the timing and rate of acclimation and deacclimation in seven blueberry genotypes with different amounts of diverse species germplasm in their backgrounds. Primary differences observed among the seven genotypes were differences in maximum hardiness levels and the date at which they were reached, and differences in the date at which maximum acclimation levels were no longer sustained and deacclimation started. Highbush cultivars Bluecrop and Legacy (V. corymbosum L.), rabbiteye cultivar Tifblue [V. ashei Reade (= V. virgatum Aiton)], and two rabbiteye hybrid derivatives (US 1043 and US 1056) all reached maximum or near maximum cold-hardiness by late December with temperatures causing 50% lethality (LT50) in a range from –22 to –27 °C. The half-high, ‘Northsky’, and a hybrid of V. constablaei Gray × V. ashei ‘Little Giant’ both achieved cold acclimation of –28 °C or below (the lowest value we could measure) by the end of November. After reaching their maximum hardiness in late December, ‘Legacy’, ‘Tifblue’, and US 1043 began a sustained and relatively linear deacclimation, whereas US 1056, ‘Bluecrop’, ‘Northsky’, and ‘Little Giant’ sustained their acclimation for longer intervals. ‘Bluecrop’ and US 1056 did not begin to deacclimate until early March, and ‘Little Giant’ and ‘Northsky’ had no LT50 values higher (warmer) than –25 °C until late March. As concerns about climate change increase, knowledge of the ability of breeding germplasm to tolerate greater temperature extremes and fluctuations will prove increasingly valuable.

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Loss of freeze tolerance, or deacclimation, is an integral part of winter survival in woody perennials because untimely mid-winter or spring thaws followed by a hard freeze can cause severe injury to dehardened tissues. This study was undertaken to investigate deacclimation kinetics, particularly the timing and speed, of five blueberry (Vaccinium L.) cultivars (`Bluecrop', `Weymouth', `Ozarkblue', `Tifblue', and `Legacy'), with different germplasm compositions and mid-winter bud hardiness levels, in response to an environmentally controlled temperature regime. Based upon bud cold hardiness evaluations in 2000 and 2001, `Tifblue', a Vaccinium ashei Reade cultivar, was one of the least hardy and the fastest to deacclimate; `Bluecrop', a predominantly V. corymbosum L. cultivar, was the most hardy and the slowest to deacclimate; and `Ozarkblue', a predominantly V. corymbosum cultivar but including southern species V. darrowi Camp. and V. ashei, was intermediate in speed of deacclimation. `Weymouth' (predominantly V. corymbosum) and `Legacy' (73.4% V. corymbosum and 25% V. darrowi) were slow to intermediate deacclimators. Deacclimation rates did not correlate strictly with mid-winter bud hardiness. Data suggest that the southern germplasm component V. ashei may be responsible for the observed faster deacclimation whereas both southern species, V. darrowi and V. ashei, may contribute genes for cold sensitivity. Strong positive correlations between stage of bud opening and bud cold hardiness existed in both years (r = 0.90 and 0.82 in 2000 and 2001 study, respectively). Previously identified major blueberry dehydrins, 65-, 60-, and 14-kDa, progressively decreased in their abundance during incremental dehardening in `Bluecrop', `Weymouth', and `Tifblue'. However, down-regulation of the 14-kDa dehydrin most closely mirrored the loss in cold hardiness during deacclimation, and, therefore, may be involved in regulation of bud dehardening. Because differences in deacclimation rate were clearly evident among the genotypes studied, rate of deacclimation of the flower buds of blueberry should be an important consideration in breeding to improve winter survival.

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Because randomly amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) is the only type of molecular marker that has been used extensively in blueberry (Vaccinium spp.) for mapping and DNA fingerprinting of cultivars, there is a need to develop a new, robust marker system. Expressed sequence tags (ESTs) produced from a cDNA library, derived from RNA from floral buds of cold acclimated plants, were used to develop EST-PCR markers for blueberry. Thirty clones, picked at random from the cDNA library, were single-pass sequenced from the 5' and 3' ends. Thirty PCR primer pairs were designed from the ends of the best quality sequences that were generated and were tested in amplification reactions with genomic DNA from 19 blueberry genotypes, including two wild selections (the original parents of a mapping population), and 17 cultivars. Fifteen of the 30 primer pairs resulted in amplification of polymorphic fragments that were detectable directly after ethidium bromide staining of agarose gels. Several of the monomorphic amplification products were digested with the restriction enzyme AluI and approximately half resulted in polymorphic-sized fragments (cleaved amplified polymorphic sequences or CAPS markers). The polymorphic EST-PCR and CAPS markers developed in this study distinguished all the genotypes indicating that these markers should have general utility for DNA fingerprinting and examination of genetic relationships in blueberry. Similarity values were calculated based on the molecular marker data, and a dendrogram was constructed based on the similarity matrix. Coefficients of coancestry were calculated for each pair of genotypes from complete pedigree information. A fair correlation between similarity coefficients calculated from marker data and coefficients of coancestry was found.

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